VVS Laxman's fourth County Championship century of the season has put Lancashire in control of their match against Warwickshire after two days at Old Trafford.
The 34 year-old Indian Test veteran reached three figures off 230 balls, and was bowled for 113 as he helped his side to 353-8 from 113 overs in reply to Warwickshire’s first innings total of 148.
But no matter what the result is in this match, Lancashire now know they will definitely be playing in LV Division One next season after Sussex were bowled out for 243 by Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
As a result, the 2006 and 2007 county champions have been relegated alongside Worcestershire. If Lancashire can win this match they will stand a very good chance of finishing in fourth place.
“I am glad I played an important knock at the right time for the club,” said Laxman. “(Avoiding relegation) was one of the targets, but we are here to win the game.
“We are in a position to win this game, and it’s important that we go out and bowl the way we did in the first innings. We want to put pressure on the Warwickshire batsmen, and if we do that we can definitely win the game.”
Laxman shared a fifth wicket partnership of 154 in 50 overs with all-rounder Steven Croft, whose feisty 79 off 146 balls was his highest four-day score of the summer in just his sixth match.
There were a grand total of seven breaks for bad light – 27 overs were lost in the day - and Warwickshire did not take a wicket until the final over before tea. Croft chopped on to former Lancashire academy seamer Andrew Miller, who finished with an impressive 3-67 from 19 overs, to leave Lancashire at 264-5 in the 90th.
Laxman was forced to bat for the majority of the day with opener Paul Horton as his runner after sustaining a back twinge late on day one. Horton came out with Laxman on 61 in the ninth over of the day.
He explained: “Yesterday evening I played an off-drive and pulled my back. I took treatment and this morning I felt better, but once I took a run off Woakes it was quite painful. I had a spasm in my back.
“I was having a lot of pain, and because of the stiffness I was unable to move properly. I carried on, and Crofty gave me the motivation from the other end.
“It was restricting my foot movement. I just wanted to hang in there, not throw it away, and play a subdued knock instead of playing aggressive. Because of my back I was unable to play some aggressive shots.”
Croft reached his second fifty of the current campaign off 98 balls after lunch. Laxman, who had reached his fifty late on day one, brought up three figures eight overs later.
This was the Hyderabad-born player’s sixth century for the Red Rose, whilst it was also his second against Warwickshire at Old Trafford after his 103 against them here during his first spell two years ago.
Knowing the importance of the relegation situation, and worried about his back, Laxman was watchful yet still elegant. Due to all the stoppages there were three and three quarter hours between his 12th and 13th boundaries, both off the left-arm spin of Ant Botha.
Chris Woakes dropped Croft off his own bowling whilst on three after three overs of play, but from then on the visitors rarely looked like taking a wicket until Croft got a big inside edge onto his off-stump. Miller later rocked back Laxman’s off-stump to end his 254-ball stay at the crease, and also trapped Glen Chapple lbw.
Luke Sutton (29 not out) and Kyle Hogg shared 56 in ten overs for the eighth wicket before the latter was stumped off Botha to leave the score at 352-8 in the 110th.
Ironically, after the cloudy and murky conditions throughout the day, the setting sun caused the seventh and final light break with Lancashire ending the day leading by 205 runs.
[Day 1 Report]
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd